German exports plunged by 28.7% in the year to April 2009, figures from the national statistics office Destatis, showed today. Exports decreased by 4.8% and imports by 5.8% in the month of April - - the trade surplus fell 50% to €9.4 billion. Separately, Destatis reported today, that employers in industry and in the entire service sector paid a seasonally-adjusted 5.8% more for one hour worked in the first quarter of 2009 than in the first quarter of 2008. That is the highest increase since the labour cost index time series began to be calculated in 1997. Compared with one quarter earlier, labour costs were up a seasonally and calendar-adjusted 1.7%.
Germany exported commodities to the value of €63.8 billion and imported commodities to the value of €54.4 billion in April 2009. The foreign trade surplus of €9.4 billion in April 2009 compared with a surplus of €19.0 billion in April 2008.
Provisional data from the Deutsche Bundesbank, shows that the current account of the balance of payments showed a surplus of €5.8 billion in April 2009, which included the balance of services (€–0.7 billion), factor income (net) (€+0.1 billion), current transfers (€–2.5 billion) and supplementary trade items (€–0.6 billion). In April 2008, the German current account showed a surplus of €15.4 billion.
In April 2009, Germany exported goods to the value of €40.5 billion to other EU countries, while its EU imports were valued at €35.6 billion. Compared with April 2008, dispatches to and arrivals from the EU countries decreased by 29.9% and 22.3%, respectively. Commodities to the value of €27.8 billion (–28.8%) were dispatched to the Eurozone countries in April 2009, while the value of commodities received from those countries was €25.3 billion (–21.8%).
Exports of goods outside the European Union amounted to €23.4 billion in April 2009, while imports from those countries amounted to €18.8 billion. Compared with April 2008, exports to third countries decreased by 26.5%, and imports from those countries by 23.8%.
Rise in hourly labour costs
Destatis said employers in industry and in the entire service sector paid a seasonally-adjusted 5.8% more for one hour worked in the first quarter of 2009 than in the first quarter of 2008. That is the highest increase since the labour cost index time series began to be calculated in 1997. Compared with one quarter earlier, labour costs were up a seasonally and calendar-adjusted 1.7%.
Destatis said the rates of change of the labour cost index depend not only on the development of labour costs but also on the number of hours worked.
Employers’ labour costs are contrasted with hours worked by employees. According to calculations by the Institute for Employment Research of the German Federal Employment Agency, the average number of hours worked per employee decreased by 3.4% in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same quarter one year before.
The fall in the number of hours worked was particularly striking in industry where it amounted to – 10.6%. The decline in production led to a reduction of overtime hours in working time accounts, to a decrease in the number of weekly working hours and to short-time work. All these factors made the price of labour as a production factor rise in relation to the number of hours actually worked and to what was produced. Consequently, labour costs per hour went up 11.2% in industry and unit labour costs rose 24.9% against the same quarter one year earlier.
Destatis said in the fourth quarter of 2008, the lowest rates of change were recorded for Malta (+ 0.4%), France (+ 2.3%) and Sweden (+ 2.9%). Then came Ireland with 3.0%, Denmark with 3.3% and Spain with 3.6%. The highest rates of labour cost change were recorded by Greece and Romania with increases by 22.4% and 21.5%. For the fourth quarter of 2008, data are available for 24 of the 27 European Union member states. The rates of labour cost change in countries outside the Eurozone are measured in the relevant national currencies and thus are not currency-adjusted.